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Let’s get it on! (An Ever-Lovin’ October Begins) – Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7

October 3, 2011

Annuals are tricky things. They can offer artists extra pages and a broader forum to craft a neat standalone story. Or, as is often the case, they can turn into bloated, indulgent crap-fests. They’re a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.

Well, this one (scripted by Tom DeFalco, pencilled by Ron Wilson and inked by a cast of thousands) is just about the sweetest goddamn chocolate covered cherry that I’ve ever bitten into. Let the Ever-Lovin’ October officially begin!

The gathering force here is that ‘roided up Elder of the Universe, the Champion (his 1st appearance), who’s brought to Earth by his unquenchable thirst for gymnasial satisfaction. To that end, the possessor of the Power Primordial (the Tab to the Power Cosmic’s Coke) challenges an assemblage of the strongest heroes on Earth to fight him, and not just any kind of fight, but literal honest-to-goodness-Larry-Merchant-at-ringside boxing. Ropes, gloves, Everlast trunks, everything. A diverse assemblage of hyper-powered dudes are plucked from their daily lives and brought to an extradimensional training center, where the Champion explains his plans and provides them with private alien Mickey Goldmills:

The winnowing process begins, with Doc Samson getting his doesn’t-belong-here ass knocked out cold by an apparatus, and spoiled brat Namor crossing his arms, holding his breath and refusing to cooperate until he’s finally sent home. Good riddance to both. The working class Ben Grimm, though, is like a fish in water:

The rest of the roster makes it through, and the night finally arrives for the big fight. The exhibition is hyped in newspapers, Time, television and radio, and tickets become a hot commodity. The event isn’t held in any half-ass beer hall, either. No, it’s staged in a packed to the gills Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of pugilism. The only nod to the strangeness of the card is a force-field around the ring so no one, including folks like the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, can interfere (despite their best efforts) and retrieve their comrades.

All the chosen heroes are game for the challenge (even if they aren’t given much choice), but none can stand the test. B-listers like Sasquatch, Wonder Man and Colossus are pummeled into the ground like railroad spikes, while the Hulk is disqualified once his mindless brute aspect makes itself apparent — the Champion has standards, after all. Thor, as usual, threatens to steal the show:

Yes, there is a panel in existence of Thor in boxing regalia and straddling a spit-bucket, yacking away. Verily indeed. And he doesn’t shut his Asgardian yap when the bell rings:

Perhaps the best shot Earth has of victory is disqualified when he brings Mjolnir into the fray (the comic book version of the Tyson-Holyfield ear-bite) and gets disqualified. So it all boils down to one last hope:

Things do NOT begin well,  even if Ben’s spirits remain undaunted:

He reaches an as-yet-achieved milestone — hearing the bell ring a second time while still on his feet:

Things don’t take much of an upswing after that, and poor Ben is in desperate need of a trowel- and spackle-wielding Ferdie Pacheco during the next rounds. Seriously, the Champion PUNCHES HIM SO HARD HE BRUISES STONE. THIS SHOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE. Then, finally:

The Champion grabs his belt(!) and hoists it up, and it’s presumed that, having chopped Earth’s greatest heroes down to size, he’s going to wipe it out of existence for being unworthy, as if we’re a planet full of mincing Truman Capotes. There’s one guy, though, who hasn’t yet begun to fight:

So does the Champion go all Ivan Drago and kill the Thing in the center of the ring? No way — HE’S A REAL CHAMPION, FOLKS!:

The force field disappears and his fellow heroes swarm the fallen Ben. I DID IT, ALICIA! I DID IT! And then he goes into traction for a couple of months.

The first time I ever read this story was in one of those anthology trades, Marvel’s Ten Greatest Fights (And Shitty Punisher Garbage That Doesn’t Really Belong) or something along those lines. It was a bit of a revelation, because I’d never been much of a fan of the Thing. He was part of the Fantastic Four, a team and title that bored me senseless in my youth. But this one made me arch an eyebrow and wonder if maybe I was missing out. Now I’m a Thing-ophile, as big a fan of a prominent-browed stone dude in Haynes as a grown man could be and not run afoul of local statutes.

You get the feeling that the folks working on this annual had as much fun as those of us reading it. Maybe more. Probably more. It gives it a warm “we’re all on this ride together” feeling. I’m not saying that 10,000 years from now aliens will review the literature output of the human race and rank this comic somewhere between Gilgamesh and The Golden Ass, but its gloriously entertaining manliness is a hell of a way to kick off an October.

Apologies to Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, but if you only read one boxing-related superhero comic this year, make it this one.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. GregA permalink
    October 7, 2011 8:29 am

    Just in case you didn’t know, this story was hommaged/ripped-off in a Dial M For Monkey short on the Dexter’s Laboratory cartoon. In theshort, the Champion-esque character named Rasslor was voiced by Randy Savage.

    The short was pretty much a beat-for-beat recreation of this story.

    • October 7, 2011 3:31 pm

      Thanks for reminding me of that/bringing that to my attention. For everyone’s viewing pleasure:

      I miss the Macho Man. I miss him so much.

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